Chill Haze

Posted on 03.02.08 7:20PM under Bottle Conditioning, Brewing, IPA, Troubleshooting

PostNatal IPA-Style BeerChill haze is when beer appears clear at room temperature, but becomes cloudy when refrigerated. This is generally caused by proteins precipitating at colder temperatures. The number one recommended solution to this problem is to ensure fast cooling of your wort using a wort chiller. But sometimes there’s more to it than that.

This winter, I started getting chill haze in my beers. They’d be cloudy when I bottled them, which is expected, since there’s a lot of yeast in suspension at that point. Then as they conditioned, the beer would fall clear. But surprisingly, when  I put them in the fridge, they’d become cloudy again in under an hour. After a few weeks in the fridge, the haze would settle out – first the neck of the bottle would show clarity, then gradually the rest of the bottle. Then the beer was pretty clear after that.

I read a little and it was pretty clear to me that I had chill haze. But how could this be? I have an immersion chiller. It might not be the most efficient method, but it is pretty quick. Especially in New England in the winter when the tap water temperature is probably about 40°F. I couldn’t really find too much else about what could cause chill haze.

Then somewhere I stumbled onto the concept that a less-than-vigorous boil might contribute to chill haze. Something like the proteins would remain more intact if the boil was not really aggressive. I had been stuffing the brew kettle full of wort to get a nice 5.5 gallon yield and a full two cases of bottles after loss to yeast and trub. But the corollary to that was that I couldn’t really boil too hard, or else a bunch of wort and hops would jump ship all over the floor.

PostNatal IPA offered me the perfect opportunity to test this theory. Since PostNatal IPA was meant to be a low gravity beer (1.032) the grain bill was small. This would mean that I couldn’t get as much wort out of the grain, lest I oversparge and extract a bunch of nasty tannins and things. Plus, with less mash water, my kettle volume would be naturally limited by the volume of mash water plus HLT volume. In other words, I had no choice but to do a smaller than normal boil.

This gave me a chance to do a fully vigorous boil. It felt good to boil the hell out of the wort. In the end, I topped off with a gallon of extra water to achieve 5.5 gallons, and that worked out just fine, from a process perspective.

It worked out excellent from a quality perspective. As I eagerly felt the barometer PET plastic bottle, and found it to be quite firm today, I noted the clarity of the beer in the warm bottle. I cautiously put one bottle in the fridge. Tonight was to be the night to test the first (mostly) conditioned bottle of PostNatal IPA. Would it stay clear even in the fridge?

It was very clear! The clearest beer of mine I’ve had in a long time. This was very exciting to me. I believe that I have solved my chill haze problem. A vigorous boil seems to have done the trick. I will be vigorously boiling a smaller volume on all future beer, and I will use the side burner on the grill to boil up an extra gallon or two of top-off water to achieve target volume. It’s so nice to solve a problem.

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